Fight Distractions Using a Parking Lot

Lisa Crilley Mallis, COC, President

It can be frustrating to be concentrating on a project – and then to be distracted by an idea for another project.  You can build structure around eliminating physical distractions (such as phone calls, email, and people), but it’s much harder to eliminate the distractions in our own head!

What is a Parking Lot?

The next time you are distracted by the thoughts in your own head, utilize the Parking Lot technique.  A parking lot is piece of paper where you write down (park!) every idea that comes into your head, as soon as it enters your head.  (You can also use one Post -It note per idea if you prefer.)

How do you use a Parking Lot?

While you are working on a task, and an unrelated thought pops into your head, jot it down in the parking lot.  Stay focused on the task at hand.  Once you finish, then you can look at all the ideas in the parking lot and decide on the next task you want to complete.

What are some examples?

Internet – Instead of opening a new browser each time an idea pops into your head, jot the ideas down, finish the current online task, then open a tab for one of the tasks you identified on the parking lot.

Project – While working on a project you think of an idea for another project.  Instead of continuing to think about this project, write down your thoughts in the parking lot, and continue working on the initial idea.

Meeting – During a meeting or presentation, place any questions, strategy suggestions, and other important (but unrelated) ideas into the parking lot until the appropriate time.  Questions may be answered throughout the talk and if not, you have captured them for review at the end.  Also, when the meeting is focused on big picture ideas and you a have a great implementation idea, putting it into the parking lot allows you to keep the meeting on track and remember your ideas.

Webinars – Since webinars are often “anonymous” it’s easier to multi-task while listening.  The speaker says something that reminds you that you need to pay your cell phone bill, so you open a browser to pay the bill and stop listening to the speaker.  Instead, park it – and listen!

Important disclaimer:

The Parking Lot is not your next to-do list.  You want to look over the parking lot and delete and delegate appropriate tasks.  Then, add the remaining tasks to your calendar or to-do list.

The next time you are feeling distracted by the thoughts in your own head, utilize the parking lot strategy.  You can even jot ideas down during every day conversations.  (You know – when you don’t want to interrupt the person you are speaking with, but you also want to make sure to add a new thought when appropriate!)  This technique is guaranteed to keep you focused on the most important tasks.

Lisa Crilley Mallis, COC, time strategy visionary, combines her experience in secondary education and coaching and her love of schedules, systems, and all things time management to create SystemSavvy Consulting.   She believes every person deserves the opportunity to live the life of their dreams feeling in control and bringing balance into their lives.  The crazy, “I’m so busy” feeling does not have to be way of life.  Lisa is a master at cutting to the heart of overwhelm and has helped countless clients regain control of their schedules and experience life.  Contact Lisa at Lisa@SystemSavvyConsulting.com